Regulations and standards governing digital financing need to be informed by SDG commitments and goals. Innovations in governance are needed for the new generation of global digital financing platforms.

The Need for Inclusive Governance

Some progress has been made in bringing the SDGs into international financial governance. The G20 under China’s Presidency in 2016, for example, established the Green Finance Study Group that has helped to shape the development of policies and markets The Financial Stability Board’s sponsorship of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) is another case in point, as is the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS). Key international financial standards bodies such as the International Organization of Securities Commission (IOSCO) are embracing roles in advancing sustainable finance. The Sustainable Banking Network also includes both central bankers and private financiers.

The coronavirus crisis and subsequent economic shock will be the focus on international cooperation for the immediate future. This is both an opportunity, as it is forcing a search for innovative new solutions and international cooperation to meet people’s financial needs digitally, and a risk if the climate crisis, biodiversity, gender equality and other critical areas of the SDGs get moved to the ‘back burner’.

Digital is emerging as an important enabler of the international sustainable finance agenda. As the then-IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde said in relation to digital finance’s potential to open up access to financial services. “All countries are trying to reap these benefits, while also mitigating the risks. We need greater international cooperation to achieve that, and to make sure the fintech revolution benefits the many and not just the few.” It has become a key part of the work of the UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, the G20’s Global Partnership on Financial Inclusion (GPFI) and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. The G20 under Argentina’s Presidency for the first time considered the nexus between sustainable development and digital financing as part of its Sustainable Finance Study Group, building on the exploration under the German G20 Presidency of the use of publicly available environmental data in encouraging the greening of finance. The European Commission plans to integrate digital financing into the second generation of its sustainable finance strategy.

The Task Force recommends:

  • Developing a principle-based approach for governance – integrating the SDGs into digital finance policy
  • Strengthening inclusive governing of global digital platforms
  • Corporate governance innovations for global digital platforms

Next Steps: Leverage the Task Force pathfinder initiatives to integrate SDG considerations into digital finance governance and regulations at national, regional and international levels. Secretary General to call on corporate and financial sector leaders to introduce governance innovations that ensure effective integration of SDG concerns into company strategies and operations.

UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation

The UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation lays out eight key action areas:

  1.  Achieving universal connectivity by 2030 through establishing targets and metrics; convening investors for financing hard-to-reach areas; promoting transformative initiatives; creating an enabling regulatory environment and integrating connectivity into emergency preparedness and response.  For example Giga is seeking to connect all schools.
  2.  Promoting digital public goods including open-source software, open data, open artificial intelligence models, open standards and open content aligned with national and international privacy laws, including through the Digital Public Goods Alliance.
  3.  Ensuring digital inclusion for all, including the most vulnerable, through a multi-stakeholder digital inclusion coalition mapping action; collecting data on digital financial inclusion and literacy; and support national plans.
  4.  Strengthening digital capacity-building approaches including holistic technical and financial support for digital readiness, strategy and digital skills training through a multi-stakeholder network and a joint facility for digital capacity development.
  5.  Ensuring the protection of human rights through comprehensive guidance from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights assessments of using new technologies, and commitments from Member States and industry to place human rights at the center of legislation, regulation and innovations.
  6.  Supporting global cooperation on artificial intelligence that is trustworthy, human rights based, safe and sustainable and promotes peace through a dedicated multi-stakeholder advisory body and promoting best practice.
  7.  Promoting trust and security in the digital environment through a broad and overarching statement that establishes a common understanding and elements of digital trust and security, endorsed by Member States.
  8.  Building a more effective architecture for digital cooperation through reconceptualization of digital governance architecture and enhancing the Internet Governance Forum.


A Principle-Based Approach for Governance

The Task Force recommends the development of a set of principles to integrate the SDGs into policy dialogue, standards and rules governing digital finance: 

The IMF and World Bank-sponsored Bali Fintech Agenda is an attempt to align the evolution of digital finance with the SDGs. Building on this and the experience of the G20’s GFPI, a set of principles could be developed to insert the SDGs into international policy and regulatory dialogue regarding digitalization across global finance, public and private sectors. Such an approach could also advance the role of digital finance in existing international efforts around sustainable finance, such as the TCFD, Principles for Responsible Investment, and the NGFS as well as national and regional initiatives with international implications, such as the European Commission’s International Platform on Sustainable Finance.

Overview of this Recommendation 


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Develop a set of principles that guide national and international rulemaking and also directly market behaviour in aligning digital financing with the SDGs.

Next steps

UN with Bretton Woods institutions to advance such a set of principles in consultation between policymakers, regulators, international organizations, fintech companies and financial institutions, draw on existing principles (e.g. Bali Fintech Agenda) and to be adopted by key international platforms, such as the G20.


Governing Global Digital Financing Platforms

The Task Force recommends developing inclusive governance for global digital financing platforms: 

Digitalization creates the potential for increases in returns to scale, and so supports the emergence of monopolies. Some digital financing platforms may become globally significant, as is the case with prominent payment platforms. This could also be the case with global digital currencies. Such platforms would have significant cross-border spill-over impacts. Some impacts are beneficial and planned for, such as reduced cross-border transaction costs. Others might be problematic and not adequately factored into current policy and regulation, such as monetary policy and macro-economic effects.

Developing country participation and voice in the rule setting and standards development processes regarding the governance of digital finance is critical. A number of platforms have mandates to engage global standard setters on behalf of developing countries exist and should be leveraged on. The Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four is mandated by its developing country Finance Ministry and Central Bank membership to contribute developing country perspectives into G20 and other international processes. The Alliance for Financial Inclusion is mandated by its membership of developing country central banks, financial regulators, and government ministries from more than 90 countries to represent experiences and challenges of its membership in international fora such as the G20 as well as through formal representation at standard setting bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Bank for International Settlements (BIS). The World Bank also plays a supporting role in advocating for the perspectives of developing countries and their citizens in international standard setting bodies, for example through Enhanced Cooperation Arrangements with the BIS.

Overview of this Recommendation


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Ensure a more effective, permanent voice of developing countries in the development of governance of digital financing, particularly pertaining to global digital finance platforms that will have cross-border spill-over impacts.

Next steps

Establish a platform led by developing country policymakers and regulators to engage with international rule and standard-setting bodies shaping the next generation of governance of global digital financing actors. It should leverage existing platforms for developing country engagement with standard setters and include finance, telecommunications, competition, tax and data regulators.


Corporate Governance Innovations

The Task Force recommends the development of corporate governance innovations for global digital financing platforms: 

‘Public utility’ corporate governance arrangements could complement policy and regulatory measures in strengthening the SDG-alignment of global digital financing platforms. Historically, ‘public utility’ element of businesses, especially water, electricity and railway companies, were safeguarded through a mixture of policy, regulation, and corporate governance and ownership. How best to govern large digital platforms has become a major topic of public debate, demonstrating a need for governance innovations.

Digital companies are increasingly making investments in soft or non-fiduciary governance innovations, such as Facebook’s newly-convened Oversight Board, to strengthen oversight and sustain their license to operate. Reuters, one of the earliest global media and communications groups, adopted the Trust Principles in 1941 when it became a publicly traded company on the London Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, along with a unique corporate governance arrangement, given the name ‘Reuters Founders Share Company Limited’, that continues to exist and operate today.

A pathfinder initiative has been launched under the leadership of Kenya and Switzerland. The International Dialogue on Global Digital Finance seeks to facilitate a balanced and more inclusive dialogue, particularly involving developing nations, on SDG-aligned governance of global digital finance.

Overview of this Recommendation


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  • Develop and deploy corporate governance frameworks to secure ‘public utility’ aspects of digital financing platforms that are large, market dominant, and have cross-border spill-over effects.

Next steps

Establish a working group including financial policy makers and regulators, corporate governance groups, public interest bodies and global digital financing platforms to develop and encourage take up of possible frameworks.